You Win or You Learn


I had a blast competing in my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament last weekend. I get to do it again this Saturday! I invested a lot of time and sweat over the last 6 weeks getting ready for these two events and I felt very prepared both physically and technically. However, there is one thing that can never be replaced on the training mats or during a conditioning circuit: Experience.

It is hard to replicate the flood of norepinephrine that washes over your body before a fight. The loss of hearing…The tunnel vision…The almost Instagram-like filter that alters the colors around you…What a fascinating and fun experience!

I feel like I did my best. Actually, I did better than my best because I showed up and stepped on the mats. Trust me, I am no stranger to anxiety. I’ve been a preacher/teacher/public speaker for almost 12 years and I am very familiar with butterflies, cotton-mouth, flushing, etc. However, I was not ready for how mentally challenging it would be to step on those mats. About 2 hours before the event I remember thinking, “What in the world are you doing here?” The “voice” of fear kept saying:

“You don’t belong here”

“You’re too old, too big, too nice”

“These guys are better than you”

Not to quote a cheesy song, but instead of listening to fear I chose to listen to the voice of truth.  The truth is, I worked my tail off to get ready. The truth is, my potential opponents were not tougher than Reece, Joel, Barry, Earl, Elvis, Eugene, James, Colt, Zee, Cody, Abbott, Aaron, and all of the other monsters who kick my butt in training Monday through Friday.

Once my match started I was on autopilot. I didn’t think. My body just did what it’s supposed to do. I already knew that I was not going to get suckered into a wrestling match with my opponent. He’d been competing off and on for over 10 years in BJJ and wrestling. Once we were on the ground I did everything correctly from the bottom.

“Active hips. Create space that he cannot control. Proper hand placement. Keep him off-balance. Get your knee in. Protect your arms. Oh crap, he’s got side control. Get out. Yes, I’m out! Recover half-guard. Try to lock down or set up deep half sweep.”

However, my opponent had experience on his side. He was about a half a step ahead of me the whole time and in the end I got caught in a perfectly executed collar choke. So much fun!

We bowed, hugged, and congratulated each other because that’s what we do in BJJ. Respect and humility are not just formalities, they represent our way of life. The crazy thing is how much encouragement and congratulations I received even in “defeat.” I didn’t get beat up, smashed, or injured. My hand didn’t get raised but I gained a lifetime of experience, I felt great and I pushed through fear and stepped up when my name was called. I can’t wait for the next challenge.

“There is no losing in jiu jitsu. You either win or you learn.” – Carlos Gracie

2 thoughts on “You Win or You Learn

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